Accelerator on a Chip: How It Works





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Published on Jun 30, 2014

In an advance that could dramatically shrink particle accelerators for science and medicine, researchers used a laser to accelerate electrons at a rate 10 times higher than conventional technology in a nanostructured glass chip smaller than a grain of rice. For the full story, see: http://www6.slac.stanford.edu/news/20...


This animation shows how our accelerator-on-a-chip uses laser light to boost electron energy.

The action takes place within a tiny channel -- less than 1/200th the thickness of a human hair.

Laser light consists of waves with a uniform period and amplitude. We use an infrared laser with a wavelength exactly twice the height of the channel.

These light waves have electric fields that oscillate back and forth, as shown by the arrows. Green indicates a positive electric force that can accelerate an electron; red represents a retarding force. To achieve net acceleration, the electrons must somehow encounter more green arrows than red.

We did this by modifying the channel. We created a nanoscale pattern of ridges and gaps on the top and bottom of the channel. This structure increases the laser light's electric field between the ridges and reduces it within the gaps.

Electrons traveling through the patterned channel now receive a big energy boost from the electric fields between the ridges and lose only a little energy as they pass through the smaller gap fields. The net result is a significant energy gain for those electrons that are perfectly timed with the laser lightwaves.

Our initial experiment used a structure with over 500 ridges and accelerated electrons at a rate 10 times greater than today's SLAC linear accelerator, which is powered by microwaves. With further development, future devices could be made much longer and achieve up to 10 times greater acceleration.


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